First impressions of Riyad

Bismillah,

Assalamu alaykum everyone. Back to blogging after a long time, as usual, alhamdulillah. Most of you will know that we have now moved out to Riyad, Saudi Arabia. We have only been here for nearly two weeks. So, I will only be sharing my first impressions which may not be a good way to judge the city “smile”

Weather/Going out and about- It is very hot and dry. You can’t walk outside at all. Looking back at memories of going out for long walks with kids in Britain feels like a totally weird thing to do here in Riyad. People want to live near shops, schools and other amenities not because it’s a walkable distance so they can just walk to the place. Even if it is 5-10 minutes away, everyone seems to drive everywhere. The concept of women not being able to leave the house alone- totally false. I saw and talked to so many women who go out and about, as long as they are not walking alone and not entering certain buildings full of men. So, any woman can go out and catch a taxi on almost all main roads to go to work, to a shopping mall, visit a family or friends or go to expensive restaurants etc.

Entertainment/Past time activities– There are not massive range of activities for kids. Most activities limited to swimming, horseriding and martial arts classes. However, prices can be very expensive and all the places are so spread out. It is really hard to find a place to live where you can be close to everything you need (work, school, kids activity centres etc). And traffic and transport are the biggest hurdle for anyone who wants to do things outside the house. We found Riyad zoo, iceskating in one of the shopping malls and a couple of museums. Things like science museums, children’s centre where they provide educational activities such as baking, cooking, painting etc- almost non-existent or my search has been unsuccessful. Our children have been indoors all week as we have not yet registered them at school. So, the only place we take them out on the weekends have been malls so far where they go on rides (each mall has a fun fares section with different rides). Shopping malls (shopping centres) are where most people seem to go- because it is cool, ACed, full of cosy coffee shops and other eating places and rides for children. But, I’m hoping to organize something more educational on the weekends once we settle so we can go ice skating, zoo or other museums or organize our own indoor activities inshaAllah.

School– is a massive problem in Riyad. There are tons of international schools, English medium private schools. But their teaching standards are really poor despite the fact that their tuition fees are really high. So, tuition fees range from 16000 SAR up to 75000SAR per child per year. British International school charges 56000SAR (so 12K in GBP) per child per year and American International school charges 75000SAR (15K in GBP). It’s a ridiculous amount to pay especially for families who have 2 or more school aged children. But these schools are full of non-Muslim expat kids so they celebrate Christmas, Easter and follow the non-Islamic trends of British or American curriculum. I have not heard any positive feedback regarding their academic side either. Do they focus on developing child’s character and personality, encourage creativity or promote analytical-critical thinking? I have no idea. Other international schools are between 18000-30000 SAR on average. Again, works out very expensive for families with 3-4 children attending school. Most of the time, half the teaching staff in international schools are not qualified. They just employ everyone and anyone who has a good understanding of written and spoken English. However, being able to speak in English doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach Maths, Science or other social subjects in English. So, the standards are pretty low because schools don’t invest in bringing qualified teaching staff from overseas.

We are planning to send them to private Arabic school so at least they pick up the language inshaAllah. And continue homeschooling in English at home in the afternoons when I return from work. There is also Tahfeedh programmes running in the afternoon between Asr and Magreb Salah at most places. But it could be too much for children….

House– we are still looking for a house somewhere close to work and also has a good school nearby. Like I said, it is a mission to find a place where you have all your needs met. Riyad is a massive city built right in the middle of a dessert with no means of public transport. So, you either wait for your husband to be free (only weekends for working men) or end up spending so much money on taxis.

Homeschooling– surprisingly I found a big community of homeschoolers in Riyad, Alhamdulillah. I have not met any of the sisters yet but they have all been very helpful on whatsapp (:P) and hoping to attend the meet up sessions in the future inshaAllah. There is not much happening at the moment (not as much as in Bradford anyway), but I think sisters are just returning from holidays back home (UK, USA and Canada) and seems be getting more active. I am hoping to run education programme for all homeschooled children in Riyad, again after we settle down. Planning and preparation under way at the moment, inshaAllah.

Work/Job– Both myself and husband like our jobs. Everyone seems so welcoming and friendly. It is a nice environment to work and workload is not much. It is just long hours (you have to fulfill the contract so must spend 8 hours in the office) and commuting to work can be tiring.- I spent 2 hours travelling back and forth to work each day (one hour each way)- a total waste of time. Other than long hours and traffic-the actual work is not hard. Alhamdulillah

Please keep us in your duas that we find a good place to live and a good school to send the children.  May Allah make our stay in Riyad beneficial for our dunya and akhirah.

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You are not bad, you are just young!!!

Bismillah,

Alhamdulillah, it feels so nice to be back here, writing about the things that have been occupying my mind for some time now. I have realized that writing truly is one of my very few passions in life. So, here I am today writing about the important attitudes and skills essential to parenting.

I have been studying and working with children for over ten years now. Although it is not a long time, due to nature of our advanced society where different child development theories come and go each year, I feel I have been through various approaches, theories, attitudes as a teacher and a mother. Again, due to the nature of education evolving and developing so rapidly, we get at least 10 new books published each year somehow related to parenting. We read and drown ourselves in pool of information; all the way from potty training to getting kids eat their vegetables; from how to stop children telling lies to how to stop yelling. Whereas, in practice, I have come to believe, there are only a handful of attitudes and skills essential to successful parenting. And these contain the most profound task we ever set for ourselves- the willingness to grow, change and mature in every single day of our lives.

Nothing in nature is more complex or mysterious than a human-being. And yet we search for easy quick-fix solutions when dealing with our children. When patience is needed, we hasten; when kindness is needed, we spank, when empathy is needed, we shut down.

Self-awareness and Self-consciousness

Although we can influence it to a great deal, we can’t always control children’s action. However, what we can control is our own reaction. I have tested it over and over again- very often our reaction is not proportionate to how badly our children behaved. Our reaction is not in proportion to how big the kid-problem we face at the time. Sometimes, they may do the smallest things in the world like shutting the door harshly or talking loudly in a room and yet we lose control and start shouting. Other times, however, they may do the worst actions (I honestly couldn’t think of what could be the worst child action at the time of writing, throwing a tantrum, sibling rivalry resorting to hitting or child refusing to eat a meal you prepared with so much love), and yet we contain ourselves. The reason behind our varying reaction is how good or positive we are feeling in ourselves at the time of an assumed “mishap”.

On this note, I urge all the mothers to raise their own self-consciousness. Keep a diary or journal to write about your “trigger” moments. Or simply do a one-off reflection where you go somewhere green (local park or woodland etc) and write down your child’s worst behavior scenarios from the past and what your reaction have been, something similar to this.

Firstly, it helps you to understand yourself better. Secondly, writing requires to activate your thought process. When you are asked to sit down and write down those “trigger moments” and your reactions, you will realize how pathetic you can become sometimes in power struggles with your little one. Thirdly, as you are more aware of yourself, you can think of alternative strategies to blowing up, screaming and yelling. Perhaps, you can think of ways to make yourself happier in those moments. Thinking positively takes a lot of energy and training. For example, we have just come back from shopping. My 8 year old wanted to help put the shopping away. Accidentally she dropped a tray of eggs on the floor and all the eggs broke. You can either spank, lash out with “You are so clumsy. You couldnt even do that. Who asked you to put the eggs away anyway?” or think to yourself “At least she was trying to help.”

Love and empathy

As human beings, we all have an emotional tank and raising children can be draining at times. However, as an adult, we have to regain our posture and keep giving love to children even at times they don’t deserve. Perhaps, more so at times they don’t deserve. Unconditional love should be the foundation of everything.

Often, we look at our children as our own extended versions, rather than acknowledging them as a separate individual. Our actions reflect on them and theirs on us. We show our love based on their performance. We reward them when they behave in desired ways and threaten and fear them when the opposite happens. Our cuddles, kisses and hugs are plentiful as long as they accomplish their chores or do their homework. We often display love that is conditional, and just can not be bothered to display empathy when things are not going our way. We fail to attempt to understand things from our a child’s perspective and totally shut down when they need us. The time your child is told off because of her misbehaviour is probably the time she needs to be hugged most. Sometimes, one hug or showing physical affection can fix lots of whining and whinges. But, rather than connecting with our child, we do more correcting “You should learn how to talk properly. Stop whinging”,  “I am not going to listen to you until you stop whining.” or “You are old enough to ask for things in proper manner.” Thus we fail to meet our children’s need for love.

The problem is that, parents have not been able to make one simple distinction children need to hear often “You are not bad. You are just young!” (Eda Leeshan) If children feel genuinely loved by their parents for who they are, they will be more responsive to our guidance. It is only when they are emotionally secure, children are willing to cooperate. The first steps towards empathy is acknowledging their feelings “I know you are upset. Tell me about it” or “I know how you feel. Arabic can be too hard sometimes”. When you acknowledge their state without blaming them for how they felt, you take your first steps towards connection.

The key ingredient here is being able to LOVE yourself. That’s right. Stop blaming yourself for every uncontrolled tantrum. Stop making yourself feel like a failure for an uncooked dinner once in awhile. Stop being control freak and analyzing everything in your head. We all have to change ourselves for the sake of our kids. Love yourself so you can give love those around you. Have some sympathy for yourself so you can empathize with your kids.

Patience is a virtue

How many times have we been ordered to remain patient as a Muslim? In Islam, patience is a multi-dimensional concept with several ranks and mentioned over 90 times in the Qur’an. If I had to choose one human attribute that is crucial to parenting, it would be patience. Because, even the simplest things may take a long time, especially when you are trying to grow human-beings who process things countless number of times in their head before it sinks in and reflects on their actions.

Parenting demands an enormous amount of patience from a person. And let me clarify as well, being patient is not remaining calm and collective because you have no other choice. Being patient is not suffering in silence. Rather, patience is acting calm and collective when you have the upper hand whilst you talk about things that have been bothering you. Patience is forcing a smile on yourself when you see your children jumping on the bed, no brushing teeth, no pajamas well past the bed time and being able to  remind them of their bed time routine without screaming. Patience is stop yelling “Hurry Up” every time you are out with four kids because they are too slow according to your standards. Patience is stop blaming everything around you but rather accept their state of being and trying to change through a gentle reminder each time. 

In a nutshell, we first need to raise ourselves in order to raise our kids. Because the moment you became a parent, God blessed you with the biggest chance to grow again. May Allah ease our hardships and make this journey easy for all parents.

Ramadan Battle

Bismillah,

What have we been up to since the 15th April 2014? Well, a lot, really. But, first of all, let me wish all of you a Happy Belated Ramadan Kareem!!! May Allah enable us all to really change and improve ourselves for the better this Ramadan amin.

Home-educating is going well. We do almost nothing structured with regards to academic subject on a day-to-day basis. Both big and little S attend Maths, English and Science classes once a week at Raising Explorers (where I work) and they go to madrassah there Tues-Fri afternoons 4:30-6:30pm. So, what do we do at home?

Gardening

We have done a lot of gardening this Spring/Summer 2014. We have planted strawberry plants early in Spring and they were all growing so well. They all had 5-6 fruits each but the slugs started eating the leaves. My neighbor suggested I put some salt on all plants which had a disastrous ending, the fruits and leaves dried up. They have all grown out by now but  no homegrown strawberries for us this year. InshaAllah, I am hoping the plants would double by next year and we will have some fruits.

We have also planted an apple tree and a pear tree. They both blossomed well but we have got no pears for this year. Alhamdulillah, we have plenty of apples and we can not wait to bake an apple pie with those.

Pear tree

Apple tree

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

Trips and Outings

We have been going on a lot more trips lately since the arrival of my parents. We want to show them around as much as possible. We have been to quite a lot of local parks, including:

Roberts park in Saltaire; Roundhay Park in Leeds, Chellow Dene Reservoir, Ogden Waters, and of course our local Lister park. I have made a list of few other free places to go after Ramadan inshaAllah: St. Ives Park in Bingley, Shibden Park in Halifax, Stockeld Park, Cliffe Castle in Keighley, Bolling Hall, Bolton Abbey and Manor House. I am trying to make use of all free museums, galleries and parks as the costs can easily add up when multiplied x8 in the family lol. We may take them all to Yorkshire Wildlife centre for Eid

My mummy at Chellow Dene

Arabic and Qur’an

We have not been doing much Arabic language at home except what she learns at Raising Explorers. We revise the surahs of the Juzz Amma they have memorized and Sumayya reads half a page of Qur’an daily. Safiyya has just started reading too, mashaAllah but no pressure. She reads when she wants to. Having attened Tajweed classes recently, I have just started explaining the Tajweed rules to big S recently. Up until now, she has learnt how to read by listening only and kind of figured out most rules (without knowing the names such as Idghaam, Izhaar, Iqlaab etc). 1-2 daily they pray with me, again no pressure, hence not very regular. As big S turned 7 this year, I should be encouraging her more inshaAllah.

Russian progress

Alhamdulillah, big S  has been going to Russian 3 times a week. She goes to Russian class organized for the children of local Russian families on Monday afternoons. Then WEd/Fri mornings she goes to her tutor’s house for 2 hours. She can now read, write and speak a little bit of Russian. She can talk about most topics including her family, likes/dislikes, animals, fruit/veg, about her house, about her grandparents and weather etc. They do little bit of grammar but mainly conversational Russian as I want her to be able to speak and understand first. She has learnt so much vocab and can use them well. Alhamdulillah. There is also a farm next to her tutor’s house. So, we have been going 1-2 times a week to feed the horses, see llamas, donkeys and a pony.

Kids trying to feed horses

Islamic Studies and Self-Evaluation

All of us have to work on our manners, especially myself as I have to model the exemplary behavior for them. This thought has been troubling me so much lately. My confession yesterday was “I have always known that children learn by example. They are the best imitators, regardless of weather you do a good thing or a bad thing, they will try and copy the adults around them. Seems like I have known it theoretically up until this point. So, I have recently discovered that before fixing everyone else around me, especially my poor kids, I should first fix myself. As an adult and as a mother of 4 home-educated kids I see some major flaws in my own character. I can lecture my children about what is good and right thing to do but the children mirror and project my own faults which is scary. I am almost always battling with my own self and questioning “am I doing the right thing/wrong thing” and worry a lot about my children’s character too. But, like I said, I came to the conclusion that as long as I work hard to try and fix my own problems, inshaAllah Allah will take care of my children and how they are going to turn out as a person. The battle with the self continues….May Allah give all mothers out there an immense amount of patience and make parenting easy for us and give us a good ending. Amin ya Rabb!!!

I don’t know why I feel so burdened, so pressured these days with mothering duties and responsibilities…I have terrible mood swings at times and end up feeling so guilty for having shouted at kids…I am always asking for more patience in my duas as I am quick to criticize my kids. How do you deal with your inner critique that sets up the standards so high for your kids? I am finding it so hard to just let it go. Alhamdulillah, slowly but surely I am working more on myself rather than kids and feel moving in the right direction. I am praying to have a better week ahead inshaAllah: less yelling, less shouting, less correcting, less critique; more encouragement, more peaceful, more connecting and more praise.

General Home-Ed Review

Alhamdulillah, I am happy where we are at. Like I said, at this point in life we are focusing much more on character-building rather than in any form of structured academic lessons. Above all, I would want myself and my children have a good personality. I just want to be good inshaAllah…

Once again Ramadan Mubarak my dear sisters and wishing you all to have the best Ramadan yet!!!

A moment frozen in time

Bismillah,

There is nothing more devastating to a mother than to see your child suffer from a serious disease. For every mother who has heard these words “Your child has leukaemia”, it is a moment frozen in time and life-changing event. I experienced one such frozen moment today.

My father has been in hospital with heart problems recently. I made my routine call home this morning to ask after his health. My brother picked up the phone. He clearly seemed to have something urgent- something very important to say. After a few minutes of muttering and stuttering, after I had promised that I would not tell mum and dad, he told me the news. The news that made me freeze. My sister’s one and only son was diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia- a type of blood cancer where a child needs urgent Bone Marrow Transplant.

I stood speechless as my eyes welled up in tears. In an instant, the flashbacks of all his childhood memories came to me. My nephew was so chubby as a baby and we all loved him dearly. My sister lived two doors away from my parents’ so my nephew grew up in our house mostly. My sister and her husband moved to Russia in 2011, just like thousands of low-skilled migrant workers from remote villages of Uzbekistan, up and down the country. They left my nephew with my parents initially but called him over in the summer of 2013. My nephew is now 12 and my sister could never have another baby after him. And imagine how you would react if you receive the news of your one and only son having a rare type of blood cancer; Imagine the pain you would feel; just imagine to go through the torturing thought that your son leaves this world before you….

I quickly put the phone down and called my sister in Russia. I wondered how she is coping with such calamity in a country far from home, with no family or friends around her? Just imagine going through pain with no support system around you. As soon as she heard my voice my sister broke down. I only said two words “I know” and we were silently crying to each other on the phone. No words, just pain.

Then she started telling me how difficult it has been. My nephew’s nose was bleeding throughout the night on New Year ’s Eve. He had frequent nose bleedings in the past month. The hospitals were closed due to holidays and my brother-in-law was waiting for payday. As low-skilled migrant workers, they do not qualify for free health care in Russia and use private doctors when needed. They finally took their son in to a small private clinic on 6 January 2014. The doctors took blood results and diagnosed him with anaemia. But he stopped eating and he could not walk and was in constant pain. They carried more blood tests and could not identify anything. Then it was decided the next day, on 7 January 2014 that samples from bone marrow should be examined. The results were devastating.

But, you will not believe, there is something even more devastating than this. The small private clinic was unable to offer any treatment to Aplastic anaemia and transferred my nephew to Yekaterinburg Children’s hospital of Oncology and Haematology. As soon as they found out that patient was from Uzbekistan, they refused to admit him completely. My sister and brother in law were told that the treatment for Aplastic anaemia is only offered to Russian citizens and they would not be able to pay for treatment privately. Then somehow they got hold of this Tatar lady who works at this hospital as a doctor. She interfered for them on the basis that they too were a fellow Muslim. My sister was crying- “It is only because of that lady my son lived the past 4 days. And I cannot tell which is harder- enduring to see the pain on my son or enduring the dehumanizing comments of nurses here. They throw all sort of comments at me not seeing that I am already half dead.” My nephew was discharged this morning. They could no longer keep him, even if we paid for his treatments. He is diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anaemia.

They have sent me the test results from hospital. I was horrified by just looking at them. His bone marrow is not making enough blood cells for the body: red blood cells (RBC) to carry oxygen, white blood cells (WBC) to fight infection and platelets (PLT) to control bleeding. This is the result of my nephew’s blood cell count as of today:

Results Normal to have Condition
White Blood Cells 2.33 4.5 – 13.5 severe
Red Blood Cells 0.92 3.8 – 5.2 severe
Platelets 18 142 – 424 severe
Haemoglobin 34 115 – 150 severe

My sister and brother in law both left their jobs to look after my nephew. Now, my nephew continuously needs to have blood transfusion and medication until they find donor match for Bone Marrow Transplant. They urgently need money for: donor search, compatibility testing, donor harvesting, medical treatment, medication and medical supplies, my nephew’s home and day care etc. I think I have researched gazillions of websites today for help, support and funding. I am asking for donations from friends too. Please help my nephew to survive by donating via http://www.justgiving.com/nurillo

I have full faith in God that He does not burden a soul more than a soul could bear. I have full submission in whatever Allah has destined for my nephew. I also believe you can help him to live a little bit longer. So,please do not ignore this message. Whatever you give, may God accept it from you. Thank you so much for your help and support. I will keep you all updated.

Below are his full examination results including blood test and cell count results I obtained from Yekaterinburg Children’s Hospital of Oncology and Haemotology. The results confirmed that he has Severe Aplastic Animea  and urgently needs Bone Marrow Transplant.

10 Creative Play ideas for kids 0-7

Bismillah,

Are you stuck for ideas to keep your children entertained and occupied on rainy days? Or perhaps you want to spend the school holidays in a more meaningful play which gives you a chance to bond closely with your child? I planned to write this post well before the holidays but as it happens so, it was meant to be published today. With few more days of remaining holidays, try some of these creative play activities with your children for hours of fun and bonding. No planning required and really does not take hours of preparation. You can stretch each one of these for hours if kids are still enjoying or keep as short as 5 minutes. Either way, it is fun, engaging and interactive for both you and your child.

1. Junk Modelling. We have a box where Safiyya collects all the packaging from everything and anything: cereal boxes, milk bottles, onion net bags etc. And although she makes things daily, occasionally we all sit together with our junk box, glue sticks, scissors and cello tape and everyone makes their own stuff. You can  your child in conversation: what are you making, how are you going to make it, why are you making etc? Good for oral development, verbal expression and logical thinking

 

2. Sensory Play session. Ok, this one is a bit messy but nevertheless doable. When we are out and about, my kids always collect things from nature: acorns, leaves, conkers, sticks, stones, marbles, flowers etc. Again, they keep these in their own plastic bags. They know they have to dry off leaves and flowers first before placing them in a plastic bag. That moment when you are so brave to embrace the mess and have some fun with kids, get these bags out, put some water, flour, paint, gluesticks, some Asian stick spices such as cinnamon sticks etc on the table and children will happily take the lead. This is their most favourite activity.

3. Play dough and Plasticine. No need to explain. All three of my children between the ages of 2.5-7 enjoy this for hours. Meanwhile, I can just get on with my own work. This activity requires the least supervision, unless you have really small child who may want to put it into his mouth. But Ibrahim has been playing as long as I remember and not once I caught him with a playdough in his mouth. But then again, his sisters are always there to help and watch him.

4. Display boards. Ask your child/children to make a display board for their own bedroom on a topic chosen by you or by themselves. If you have printed out the pictures and reminder words already, you can provide these and children will cut out, stick to a board and decorate. However, it is quite fun and allows children to use their own initiative even when you have not prepared anything. Just brainstorm the ideas for a theme/topic, agree on one mutually and give them the basic resources, cardboard box, colours, pencils, paint, coloured papers, scissors and pen. Sometimes just an A4 paper and pen would do too. They have to make a display board and hang on bedroom wall. You can change it monthly, bi-monthly etc.

5. Colouring/Painting/Drawing- no child can ever get bored of painting, right? The same in our household. They paint 3-4 times a week while colouring and drawing for hours is a daily thing.

6. Themed stamp sets/ Stencil sets. We have always had different stencil sets on different themes and kids always loved using them. I have recently bought a farm themed stamp set which has been a huge hit. Even I sit down stamping different characters and then colouring them in to make a farmyard or a house etc. I am planning on buying more stamp sets.

7. Constructive play session with wooden blocks/legos/foam blocks/jumbo threads etc. My children’s all time favourite as they never get tired of playing with these. Each time the box is out they invent a new game, alhamdulillah.

8. Story making and storytelling. You can have a set of pictures cut out of catalogs, newspapers and magazines. A child needs to make a sentence holding each picture at a time and the next sentence has to relate to the first. So, in a way, you are inventing a story about a set of random pictures taken from random places. Use their own pictures from when they were little to add a bit more fun. Excellent tool to develop creative writing skills as they will improve their composing and narration.

9. Indoor picnic. You have planned to take the kids out to the park or for a walk later but it keeps raining. Never mind, have an indoor picnic near the fire in your front room. Make it a teddy bear’s picnic just by inviting few of the kids’ favourite toys to an indoor picnic.

10. Role-play involving adults of the household. Sometimes when I am right in the middle of something very very urgent or important, such as baking breads for the coming week etc, Safiyya wants my attention and keeps winging. I have learned to quickly turn it into a role-play session where she becomes a mommy and I am her obedient daughter. I act as a daughter trying to help mom in baking and looking after the house. I try to display all the qualities I would like to see in her. Meanwhile, I am getting on with my work. This is only imaginary and involves a lot of talking on adults’ part. You may not always be up to it, but better than listening a child’s winging. This has worked on numerous occasions but sometimes children just want a cuddle. In that case, just sit down and give them a cuddle.

 

Teaching life skills and the first poem

Bismillah,

Well, first thing is first, big S is writing poems now. I don’t think it is particularly her hobby, interest or passion. And Allah knows best, I might be wrong… One day I just casually mentioned that some of her friends have been writing a poem and read 2 poems written by her friends to her. She wanted to prove that she could do it too and straight after got a pen and paper. And ten minutes later this poem was born. MashaAllah, I was well pleased and chuffed.

Books books are the best
They really put my brain to the test
After a good book I like to rest
Snuggled up in bed with a book on my chest
Then I fall asleep and have a nice dream
When I wake up how real it seems
That’s why I love books so much much
They really have that special touch.

We have been learning some life skills lately, mainly to do with character building. We have watched some of the My Life series on BBC to learn more about the difficulties and challenges disabled children go through in their lives. Last week they watched the film about Helen Keller called the Miracle Worker. Then we did some follow up activities.

First, I blindfolded the girls. They were so giddy and found it very strange. I cut on a plate some fruits and vegetables, namely: lemon, cucumber, pear, apple, tomatoes, banana. I gave them a piece of paper and a pen. I held up one piece of fruit/veg at a time and they had to smell each piece of fruit or veg. Using their sense of smell they both had to try and guess what the fruit/veg was. If they can’t guess it by smelling, then I put the fruit or veg in their mouth. After eating they had to write down the name of that fruit/veg on their piece of paper quietly, without shouting out the answer. That was so much fun for them. Little S has absolutely brilliant sense of smell. She could guess everything straight away by just smelling, even things like cucumber, tomatoes etc that has little smell. Big S could only guess after eating. But they both enjoyed writing the names of fruits/veggies blindfoldedly.  After the activity was over, they had a good laugh looking at their writing. We revised fruit/veg names in Arabic. Then I gave them one question “What is different in the life of a girl who can not see?” to write at least 3 sentence long answer. MashaAllah, they thought and came up with good thought-provoking answers.

Yesterday we watched the film again together since they asked for it. I could not watch it with them last week. I was able to explain how we should not discriminate against children with disabilities; how it is a test from Allah through which Allah will purify them; if those disable people remain patient then Allah will compensate for them in the HereAfter; how an illness can be a blessing sometimes. Again, we discussed Helen’s manners and why she acted in a way she did. Then we did follow up activity again.

First activity we did was on team-building. I folded up the girls’ left hands. They were given paper, straws and cello-tape. Using just their right hands, they were asked to make a bridge with paper, straw and cello-tape in 10 minutes. Big S does not like doing anything under time pressure. It really de-motivates her. Anyway, they took longer but nevertheless were able to work together to cut the tape, one holding the straw, one sticking etc. I kept saying if you argue on what to do next you will take forever. So, you both have to agree on something quickly, take one job each and do it. They both wanted to cut and were unable to cut single-handedly so one had to hold the tape and the other cut etc. Alhamdulillah, it was nice activity to make them work together.

Then I folded their right hands and they had to draw an object I shouted out with a left hand. Another fun activity as they have never used left hand to draw/write/paint etc and were finding it funny. Then they did some painting too.

And finally, they have learnt how to fill out a simple form. Being able to complete forms is one of the essential skills as this is something that they would need to do many times in the future. So, we had old child registration forms for RE which I gave a copy each and asked them to fill out. It was only a page long and very simple form. They read the sections: Child’s details, Parent’s details; Emergency contact details. They completed the forms and loved putting down their signatures at the bottom lol. In the process of writing they memorized my mobile number and email and revised our full home address.

So, we have been focusing on life-skills the past 2 weeks. I can’t help but think of doing less and less structured learning and doing more and more practical and hands-on activities together. Just like any other mom, I want them to enjoy learning. In order to accomplish this goal, I need to provide them with a set of activities that are appealing to their age and interest. Being able to finish 10 pages of worksheets and 1 unit of workbook does mean nothing to me at the moment. The point is that, what impact is that time spent doing worksheets leaving in their brain? What is the real outcome? Have they learnt anything worthwhile that would help them in the long run? That would help them to develop themselves? Watching this TED clip made me think all of this all over again

Hackschooling

Best educational toys for toddlers

Bismillah,

We had visitors over the weekend and a friend offered to take the girls for sleepover. So, I agreed and off they went. However, little I was looking everywhere for his sisters. He kept asking for them and was going nearly mental lol. So,Monday morning, first time in a long long time, I had to sit down and keep him occupied. We have played few of their hands-on toys to revise/learn some numeracy and literacy skills. So, I have decided to write a review for some of the best toys worth investing, in my opinion. I say in my opinion because this is purely based on our own experience. My kids loved these toys, spent hours with them and learnt a lot through playing them. So, here is my list of 6.

1. The Alphabet wooden blocks. Perfect for little hands to grab. You can use these in a number of ways to teach both the Arabic and English alphabet. It also has numbers on the other two sides. We usually make an Alphabet train by putting the blocks in the right Alphabetical order. Or mix up and ask a child to identify a particular letter you have been learning that week. Here is the link to this resource. I have bought ours when big S was born. After nearly 7 years of being used by 3 kids, it still has plenty of life left for baby S to enjoy when she is older inshaAllah

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2. The shapes wooden blocks. This is especially good for hand-eye coordination, to teach both the shapes and the colours. All my kids loved this. The one we had was from Asda Living store but this is easily available in ELC and ToysRus or online shops. This has 15 shaped wooden blocks, perfect for little toddler hands.

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3. Foam blocks. These are quite chunky in size but has been such a hit. Excellent to make any construction using varied shaped foam blocks, review shapes/colours whilst building things. Excellent to encourage creativity and hand-eye coordination. I got two large packs in car boot when big S was a baby. All 3 children still play with these daily

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4. Wooden blocks and pieces for constructing castles, houses, farms and just about anything you can imagine. These we bought recently after all the constructive materials have been such a hit in our household. My children love playing with legos, foam blocks, wooden blocks. We keep all of these in a large plastic box so they are all mixed up. They spend at least 2 hours a day playing with them. We had these wooden blocks with a trolley from ELC, again bought when big S was a baby. Since they play all the blocks really well and they play them a lot, we have decided to buy them a new addition to their constructive box. Like I said, it has been a hit since the pack had unusual items and pieces.

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This is what their houses look like when nearly finished. But, they keep changing and adding things forever.

5. A pack of animal figurine collection from ELC. We had mini wild animals and farm animals. Ooo, these are their favourite toys. They do a lot of role-play using these. They build a farm and put the farm animals on the farm. Or they build a house for a gazelle and pretend it is hiding from a lion etc. Awesome awesome recourse to encourage imagination, creativity, to teach the names of animals, the food chain (predator, prey) etc etc

6. Knob wooden puzzles. We these ones: Arabic alphabet, English alphabet, Arabic numbers, English numbers, Animals+Shapes. Again, these are good for fine motor-skills as child is required to hold it with 2-3 fingertips and hand-eye coordination. I bought the Arabic alphabet and Arabic number wooden puzzles from Emaan productions. The rest are easily available online or in kiddies’ shops. (Something very similar to these but not exactly the same. Any knob wooden puzzle with less image is fine. I prefer not to have the English transliteration under the Arabic letters btw)

All of these are worthwhile investment as Ibrahim is using them after his two elder sisters and they are perfectly fine for baby S to enjoy next year inshaAllah.